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For the first two years, it was a celebration.

In 2014, with same-sex marriage newly legalized in Pennsylvania, LGBT couples celebrated during the inaugural Equality Fest with marriage ceremonies. A year later, the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal nationwide, so locals commemorated that occasion with more weddings.

The festival is still a celebration, with food, entertainment and art, but its organizers have turned their gazes more toward the future, said Carla Christopher, president of the event.

"We really put the emphasis on that everyone should be able to live without fear," she said of this year's event.

The third annual Equality Fest will take place from noon until 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7, at Penn Park in York City. As always, the festival will have an arts focus and will try to connect people to services they might need.

"We’re trying to get fun and creative ways to get people to engage," she said. "We’re using the arts because the arts reach people."

Christopher said one purpose of the event is to bring awareness to the fears faced by many communities of people in parts of their life that others are able to take for granted. She cited the LGBT anti-discrimination bill pending before the state Legislature. Without it, she said, people can be denied housing or fired from their jobs because of their sexuality.

"They have to be afraid all the time," Christopher said.

And there are also communities that suffer violence more than others. For example, people in the trans community are sometimes targeted by people outside it, she said.

The organizers made the decision to go with the theme before the terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando left 49 dead in a mass shooting on June 12, Christopher said, but that incident just further drove home the point.

"No human being deserves to live that way," she said, adding that the principle doesn't just apply to the LGBT community — she talked about immigrants and people of color having to deal with the same concerns.

"This is Pennsylvania," she said. "We are Pennsylvania. We are York County."

— Reach Sean Cotter at scotter@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @SPCotterYD.

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